Listen With Others

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Listener No 4703, No How: A Setter’s Blog by JFD

Posted by Listen With Others on 10 Apr 2022

Another serendipitous beginning. I have known the phrase Revenons a nos moutons for what seems like forever, without ever knowing where it came from. At some point last year, I used the phrase in  conversation in the sense of “let´s get back to the point” and, when I was asked about it, I realised that I didn´t know the answer.  I had always lazily filed it away in my mind under Voltaire  (presumably confusing it with Il faut cultiver notre jardin). A quick trip to Brewer’s put me straight and suggested a Listener theme, with some of the characters ‘returning’ to (their) sheep.

The title came next. The lawyer’s advice to his client, and the manner in which it comes back to bite him when he tries to get his fees, struck me as not only very funny, but also reminiscent of the ‘no comment’ response in criminal interviews on TV.  My first puzzle, Potatoes, also had a French theme and a title which used it in a punning way, so it was a short step from No Comment to No How. 

With all these constraints, the grid pretty well filled itself although, once I saw the potential for BAAING, I had to try to get ANSWERS into the same column. While I would have preferred more sheep, there was little enough freedom in the grid and so I had to content myself with fitting in as many thematic clues as possible and constructing a preamble designed to intrigue, while delay in the PDM. My original hidden message was the title of the play, but the editors rightly felt that this was too obscure and over-dependent on the internet, but fortunately the extra words device I had used meant that it was not too hard to adapt the clues so as to spell out the ‘judge’s instructions’ instead.

Once more my thanks to John Guiver (Shackleton) for test solving the puzzle for me and for editing some of my more contrived clues. 

JFD

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